US now sees Taliban as reconciliation partners: Pentagon

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  • US Defence official says US working ‘very extensively’ with Pakistan in fight against terrorism

The US Department of Defence said on Friday that it’s no longer conducting counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban in Afghanistan because it views the group as an important partner in its efforts for restoring peace in the war-ravaged country.

“What we’re not doing (is) counter-terrorism operations against the Taliban,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Captain Jeff Davis told a news briefing in Washington.

“We actually view the Taliban as being an important partner in a peaceful Afghan-led reconciliation process. We are not actively targeting the Taliban,” he added.

The briefing, however, focused on US efforts to defeat the Middle East-based terrorist group IS (the self-styled Islamic State) which also has some presence in the Pakistan-Afghanistan region.

Davis said that some “lone wolves” in Pakistan and Afghanistan were using the IS brand to raise their stature, but the group did not have an institutional presence in the region.

He said the IS had a “pretty good” command and control system in Iraq and Syria, but those claiming to represent the group in Afghanistan and Pakistan did not have the command and control relationship with the main IS.

The Pentagon official said the US was working “very extensively” with the Pakistani government in the fight against terrorists.

Davis explained that while the Coalition Support Fund was aimed to enhance Pakistan’s ability to fight the Haqqani Network, it also helped develop other broader spectrum counter-terrorism capabilities.

In Afghanistan, the US ended its combat operations last year and its role there now was simply to advise and assist the Afghan forces, he said.

Davis said the US also had “unilateral role” of being able to conduct counter-terrorism missions in Afghanistan primarily against al-Qaeda and its remnants. “But, the IS would be fair game as well,” he added.